XC season begins this weekend; Pre-season top 10 revealed

BoysPack
The 2019 cross country season opens this weekend with two meets – one on Friday night and the other on Saturday morning.

The 2019 cross country season begins in El Paso this weekend with Montwood’s Race to Midnight Invitational starting at 11:20 p.m. Friday at Socorro’s Student Activities Complex and Clint ISD’s Mountain View Freedom Run at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Runners from all levels – freshman, junior varsity and varsity – will compete in Montwood’s late-night event. Start times are based on the runner’s 3-mile times with the idea that all runners will finish the race before midnight. It is the second year of the race.

Teams participating are Eastwood, Hanks, Coronado, Austin, Jefferson, Fabens, Irvin, Burges, Tornillo, Bowie, Valle Verde Early College, Bel Air, Montwood, Eastlake, El Dorado, Americas, Cathedral, Del Valle, Bel Air and Cathedral.

About 480 runners – 268 male and 212 female – are expected to race.

The top runners to watch are Coronado seniors Nick Gonzalez and Alan Alba, Hanks senior Rodger Rivera, Tornillo senior Ofir Ortega and Americas senior Jacob Ye.

The top runners to watch for the girls are Americas seniors Daphne Duran and Priscilla Villalobos, Morayama Montes from Austin, Sophia Flores from Coronado and Jefferson sophomore Monique Correa.

On Saturday, Mountain View will host the Freedom Run, a 2.7 mile single loop trail in the Far East desert at 8 a.m.

Clint, Mountain View, Horizon, Riverside, Franklin, Canutillo, Chapin, EPHS, Ft Hancock, LPI, YWLA, Parkland, Pebble Hills, Loretto, Andress, Parkland. San Elizario and Ysleta are scheduled to race.

EvaJess
Franklin junior Eva Jess ranks No. 15 in the state according to Texas MileSplit. She is working towards her third straight trip to the Class 6A UIL State Championship. She will race in Saturday’s Mt. View Freedom Run.

Franklin junior Eva Jess, who enters the season ranked No. 15 in the state by Texas MileSplit makes her debut as well as San Elizario junior Edwin Gomez who was the Class 4A state individual runner-up and who starts the season ranked No. 7 in the state by Texas MileSplit.

Here is the pre-season Top 10

Boys 

 1, Eastwood: The Troopers won the Class 5A state championship last year, scoring 62 points, 25 points ahead of Austin Johnson. Eastwood placed four runners in the top 25 including junior Sergio Leon Cuartas (11th, 15:29.82) seniors Juan Olmos (12th, 15:33.69) and Elias Perez (21st, 5:47.13.). Eastwood begins its quest to defend its state championship at Montwood’s Race to Midnight Invitational at the Socorro Student Activities Complex at 11 p.m. Friday.

2, Americas:  The Trailblazers placed 15th at their first UIL Class 6A State Championship last year. Jacob Ye, who is now a senior, led Americas placing 27th in 15:47.33.  Sophomore Jared Laverty, is the No. 2 ranked top returning 5K runner in the Class of 2022. He was 62nd at the state meet (16:04.26). With the return of senior Seth Andrade, junior Gage Garcia and sophomore Carmelo Corral, Americas seems destined to repeat as District 1-6A champions and a possible return to the state meet. Americas will run at the Race to Midnight Invitational.

3, San Elizario: The Eagles earned a bronze medal at the Class 4A State Championship last year. Edwin Gomez was the state individual runner-up finishing in 15:07.63. The junior star starts the season ranked No. 7 in the state by Texas Milesplit. With a bulk of its team back – seniors Rene Arambula and Seth Rodriguez, sophomore Irvin Vazquez, junior Dilan Sanchez, the Eagles will take shot at an another state championship. They will compete in Mt. View’s Freedom Run at 8 a.m. Saturday.

4, Hanks: Seniors Michael Abeyta and Rodger Rivera earned All State honors in the Class 5A State championship last fall – Abeyta was fifth in 15:15.72 and Rivera was eighth in 15:20.56. Texas Milesplit has Abeyta ranked No 8 in the state and Rivera at No. 14. Rivera will race in Friday’s Race to Midnight Invitational.

RodgerRivera
Hanks senior Rodger Rivera will race in Montwood’s Race to Midnight Invitational starting at 11:20 p.m. Friday at Socorro’s Student Activities Complex. Rivera is one of the top returning runners in Texas. (Photo courtesy of Texas MileSplit)

5, Coronado: Senior Nick Gonzalez, a four-year letterman, ran a season best 15:12.10 at the Region 1-6A Championship at Mae Simmons where he finished 10th in the Region of Doom. He finished 21st at the UIL State Meet in 15:29.16. Classmate Alan Alba was a 25 runner in El Paso last season and should provide a powerful 1-2 punch for the T-Birds. Coronado will take part in Friday’s Race to Midnight Invitational at the SAC.

6, Tornillo: Look for Tornillo to have a strong year as they return four of its top runners from a team that finished seventh in the Class 3A State Championship in 2018. Tornillo’s top runner, senior Ofir Ortega, was 15th at the state meet. Other returning runners are juniors Bryan Garcia and Michael Maney and sophomore Bryan Guzman.

7, Eastlake: Sophomore Israel David’s 16:09.56 at the UIL State Cross Country Meet is the state’s 5th fastest for a freshman last year. He looks to improve on his 43rd place finish at state. Eastlake finished second at the District 2-5A meet last year.

8, Franklin:  Senior Daniel Kennedy will lead the Cougars this season. Kennedy had an 11th place finish at last year’s District 1-6A championship. Junior Andrew Cordero and senior Jonah Van Orman will also be heavily counted on.

9, Burges: Senior Noah Yeager was a top three runner for the Mustangs who hope to return to the Class 5A State Championship where the team placed 15th last year. The team might struggle early but coach Alex Smith will have the team in contention for another run for regionals by the end of the season.

10, Montwood:  Could this be the year the Rams make a run for a spot to regionals? It very well could be with the return of junior Trenton Nelson and Ruben Gonzalez.

Dropped out: None.
On the verge: Socorro, Chapin.

GirlsPack
Expect another exciting season of girl’s cross country this season. A number of last year’s top teams and individuals are looking toward the UIL state championship.

Girls 

 1, Eastwood: The Troopers placed 11th at the Class 5A UIIL State Championship last year and return a bulk of that team. Sophomore Lauren Walls placed 25th at state (19:25.55) will lead the way with seniors Meadow Ortiz, Eileen McLain and Destiny Martinez not far behind. Sophmore Adalia Olmos provides Eastwood with a solid five runner.

2, Americas: The Trailblazers, which finished 11th at the Region 1-6A Championship, are refocused and determined to win a District 1-6A crown. The team is deep with seniors Daphne Duran (All-District, 2016, 2017, 2018) and Priscilla Villalobos, (All-District, 2016, 2018) and junior Lauren Anderson (All-District, 2018) leading the way. Senior Mariana Guzman was injured the past two cross country seasons, however, she set Americas School Records in the 3200 meters (11:10), and the 1600 meters (5:11), during the 2019 outdoor track season. Expect big things to happen with the special group.

DaphaneDuran
Americas senior Daphne Duran leads a deep Trailblazers team into what hopes to be a promising season. Duran and her teammates will get the season started at Montwood’s Race to Midnight.

3, Franklin: The Cougars are looking to defend their District 1-6A title and make another run to regionals. Junior Eva Jess returns after placing 14th at the 2018 state meet where she finished 14th in 17:40.36. Texas Milesplit ranks Jess at No. 15 in the state. Big things are expected from sophomore Jenna Saunders and senior Lorien Clark and sophomore Jordan Torres who are more than capable.

4, Jefferson: The Foxes finished last season fifth at the Region 1-5A meet. The team will be led by sophomore Crystal Peterson who was a state qualifier (43rd in 19:21.03).  Jefferson is solid with sophomore Monique Correa and seniors Karen Garcia, Ivette Rojas and Melody Tsutsumi.

 5, Coronado: Senior Sophia Flores is the T-Birds top returning runner from last year’s Region 1-6A team. Flores could very well have a breakout season and lead Coronado back to the regional.  Seniors Sofia Fodor and Sydney Puente as well as junior Veronica Lopez will contribute greatly to the season’s success.

6, Socorro: The Bulldogs will be led by All District 1-6A and Region 1-6A qualifier senior Jazmin Chacon. In order for the Bulldogs to earn a regional berth as a team in one of the toughest district’s in Texas, senior Janeth Chacon and sophomore Ana Rojas must gobble up as many points as possible.

7, Eastlake: Eastlake is in the mist of a rebuild with the loss of Aeriel Garcia and Amaris. Sophomore Ruby Medina, Deserie Herrera,  Giselle Rubio and Emily Hernandez provide the Falcons with a bright future.

 8, Horizon: The Scorpions return seniors Destiny Beltran and sophomore Andrea Villagomez to a team that qualified to the Region 1-5A championship. Look for Horizon to challenge for another shot at regionals.

9, Del Valle: The Conquistadores are building for the future. Sophomores Anisa Sanchez, Disany Sandoval have a year experience at the varsity level which should payoff this season. Katelyn Robles provides senior leadership.

10, San Elizario: The Eagles finished last season placing in 13th place at the Region 1-4A meet. They return all their team including top runners juniors America Morales and Emily Guerrero. Senior Natalia Perez, junior Karina Gallegos and senior Yajary Quiroz will look to defend their District 1-4A championship.

Dropped out: None.

On the brink: Hanks, Burges.

Author: Victor R. Martinez

My love of running began with my son Deric. His passion and talent for distance running opened my eyes to a sport I never imaged I would embrace with such enthusiasm. As a journalist at the El Paso Times, I was the lead writer for cross country and track for several years and I was able to tell the stories of these amazing unsung athletes. Never a runner myself, I decided to change that when I turned 50 in 2016 when I trained for my first 5K. I've been running ever since and I love every minute of it - well - sort of.

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